It’s not the first time someone has asked me about why I move so much, or how can I cope with it, or how does one achieve a life like that (as if there’s nothing negative about constantly being on the move).
It was a recent, half inebriated, conversation that reminded me a little of the struggles I’ve had over the last 20 years to deal with being alone while I do the work that I do. My current contract celebrates my 20th country that I’ve lived in, and my 60th country I’ve visited.
I’m generally pretty happy with my life. The expansive work experience, as well as the multitude of people and places that I’ve been so fortunate to encounter hasn’t left me too badly scarred, leaving great memories and generally positive tales of some of the nuttiness that I’ve encountered. So what’s the secret of keeping going and not becoming cynical? Although I don’t think I’m particularly extraordinary, nor unique, or even hold any absolute truth, I feel like I deal with my experience better than many. Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve sought to find some kind of explanation of why I haven’t gone nuts.
I do still struggle and I think that the two most important issues for me are roots and someone to share this life with. With the desire to continue to explore the world, I think that these are actually one in the same (that is, I don’t think I need to have a physical home but my sense of belonging will lie with the person I’ve chosen to experience life with). But that, really, was only something I realised relatively recently. I think that by recognising that I’ve managed to find the solution to it, and frankly I never saw that coming… with this came an unexpected solidification of my own direction. Where I wanted to propel my life to, and so all of the whirling dreams that I’ve had for years seem to have discovered the centre of the vortex of my mind and dreams. That the passion I have to people, places, work, and leisure has somehow found a focal point. And it’s not to say that without this life is empty, it’s just given me so much more than I’d ever thought.
It still doesn’t entirely resolve the day to day… the struggles that plague you as you spend time on your own, in places you’ve never been, where there are few or no social interactions that meet your needs. Perhaps that’s what it’s about. The absence of the things that meet your needs, and the inability to fill that void by oneself. I’m pretty content on my own. I think I pop up on the scale as an extroverted introvert and so I need time on my own as much as I enjoy the company of others. The condition of being an introvert means that I need good company and meaningful conversations and interactions, not just the trivial. Sadly, this is in short supply. I’ve been fortunate though. I’ve good friends on almost every continent. The downside is that they are spread across the world, and I seldom have the chance to enjoy this company on a day to day basis.
So how do you deal with this? The sense of isolation, loneliness, and dealing with what seems like the trivial goings on around oneself, or just the frustration of not being able to connect well with the people and environment around me. Well, I’m not sure really. For me, I’ve learned to have realistic and somewhat limited expectations from each place I go to. It’s not to say that I don’t have a set of ideals or accept that some of the places I live are truly challenging, but I’ve learned to enjoy simple things, and not have to be on epic journeys or adventures all the time.
Yet, there are adventures to be had, and each day has a new challenge. I’ve found location appropriate hobbies and passions (SCUBA diving, photography (and a combination of these), skiing/snowboarding, hiking, writing (to some extent)…) to keep me occupied, my mind busy, and just generally distracted from other frustrations. Not to mention the pleasure that they bring.
Being useless at concluding my thoughts, I feel I should say be kind to yourself and to others. Don’t sweat the little things. Dare to dream, but realise that sometimes you need to readjust. Recognise opportunity, and don’t give time to negative people. If you haven’t found a source of joy then your soul will run dry… keep the good people around you and be sparing with your time with those that want to use you for their own gain. How I got to believing these things are all stories in their own right… perhaps I’ll tell you about them another day.